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Where Each Team Is
The Detroit Lions have had a fairly positive start to their season, slaughtering the slipping New York Giants like antelope in the season opener, before stumbling and dropping a decisive loss to the Carolina Panthers that wasn't even close. Last week the Lions rebounded by beating the Green Bay Packers (who recently beat the Jets themselves) by a score of 19-7. The Lions are shaping up to be a top-ten passing offense, while their defense is production-wise among the very best in the NFL.
The Jets had a pretty disappointing outing against the Lions NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears. The Jets continue to struggle with injuries to critical players, which made keeping pace with an offense led by Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffery extremely difficult. Some poor decision making and less-than-immaculate footwork by Geno Smith, as well as the referees completely screwing the Jets more than once proved the task to be impossible. The Jets are staring down 1-3, although they could also come out of the game with an even record in a contentious AFC East.
Lions vs Jets coverage
Sister Site: Pride Of Detroit
Location: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ.
Field: Open air, artificial turf.
Coverage: FOX. America's most confused network.
Weather: Sunny, high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.
Record: The all-time series is tied up, 6-6.
What happened last time? Jets won in overtime by a score of 23-20 on November 7th, 2010. The Jets have won the last three straight meetings over the Lions.
Who is favored? The AP has this game as a Pick Em (nobody is favored), as do several other media outlets. CBS Detroit has the Lions favored by 1.
|OL||Dalton Freeman||knee||not listed||LP||FP||Probable|
|TE||Joseph Fauria||ankle||not listed||NP||NP||Out|
|RB||Theo Riddick||hamstring||not listed||not listed||LP||
Jets: After three weeks the Jets are 21st in points scored, 8th in overall yards, 19th in passing yards and 2nd in rushing. This is a substantial improvement from the previous week with the exception of the rushing average, in which category the Jets fell to 2nd in the NFL. The Jets RB committee of Chris Johnson, Chris Ivory, and Bilal Powell have kept the team a top rushing offense and have matched up favorably against the Bears, Packers and Raiders who all rate poorly against the run so far. The Detroit Lions are a top-5 rush defense, and the biggest challenge yet the Jets running backs will face this year.
On defense the Jets are 21st in points allowed, 2nd in overall yards allowed, 9th in passing defense, and 1st in rushing defense. The Jets powerful front seven continues to keep teams to league-low rushing totals, on average. While the Jets are still ranked in the bottom half of the league when it comes to giving up points, Gang Green has quietly risen to a top-10 average pass defense, as hard as that may be to believe. I think Rex Ryan deserves some credit for producing those kind of results with a patchwork secondary while facing don the kind of schedule his team has. These are not easy teams to defend against the pass. Ultimately, it isn't the defense that consistently loses games for the Jets, but rather lack of an effective offense.
Lions: On offense the Lions are 23rd in points scored, 11th in overall yards, 6th in passing yards; and 25th in rushing yards. The Bears had similar strengths when facing the Jets last week. On average, Detroit is a slightly more powerful offense than Chicago so far this year.
On defense the Lions rank 2nd in points allowed with 15 points allowed on average, 1st in overall yards allowed; 3rd against the pass, and 2nd against the run. There are no clear favorable match ups for the Jets against the Lions defense. The Jets will either have to mow over one of the best run defenses, or Geno Smith will have to break his habit of performing poorly against the NFL's better secondaries.
AP Pro Ranking has the Jets falling to 21st overall, and the Lions are ranked 10th.
Attacking the Lions
The Panthers handily beat the Lions with a balanced attack of pass and run. The Jets have been patiently attacking defenses with a relatively balanced offense compared to the rest of the league, which is trending toward up-tempo heavy passing schemes. The Jets stubborn love of the run could actually benefit them here, as it seems the most successful teams against the Lions are unpredictable.
The Jets will need to consistently generate pressure on Matt Stafford with their loaded defensive line in order to rule the day. Stafford has production almost identical to that of Geno Smith, and he should fold under pressure. Capable safety and linebacker play will be critical, as Stafford will quickly turn to running backs and tight ends when Calvin Johnson is adequately covered.
Go into the bathroom, turn the lights off, and say the name "Eric Decker" three times. Hopefully by some miracle this makes him appear on the field fully healthy on Sunday, because the Jets desperately need Decker at 100% health. The offense, much like Decker's hamstring this week, has a night-and-day feel to it when he isn't around. Decker makes Geno Smith better who in turn can make everyone else look better. If Decker isn't at least close to his normal self, I just don't see how the Jets can keep pace against the Lions. Any of the Jets receivers behind Decker and Jeremy Kerley need to step up, because David Nelson is not cut out for the job and there is ample opportunity for someone to take his place.
Darrin Walls and Antonio Allen are the players that could make or break the defense. We expect elevated play from the defensive line, and linebackers Demario Davis and David Harris are doing the best they can as they fly all over the middle of the field playing mop-up duty. You can only ask so much in support from Calvin Pryor and Dawan Landry. If there isn't viable coverage by Walls and Allen, the Lions could easily embarrass this team.
Lions to Watch
Calvin Johnson will almost definitely play, and I'm barely exaggerating when I say that Megatron IS the Lions offense. Stafford is mediocre without him, and no player on the Lions have come close to his production so far this year. Neutralizing Johnson could prove the difference between victory and defeat. Golden Tate is an effective receiver, but after that there is a huge drop off in skill at that position. Stafford's next two favorite targets are running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush. The Jets should beware check downs and receivers coming out of the backfield. Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew have been virtual ghosts and may look to break out against the Jets. Calvin Johnson has more receptions than all the other receivers besides Tate if they were combined.
Even after Stephen Tulloch went down with a season ending injury while celebrating a sack (he was their sack leader & second best tackler, no small loss for the Lions) the Lions still have a glut of impact players on defense who can pressure Geno into making bad decisions. Ndamukong Suh is legendary for both his lack of self-control and his brutal play on the field. Nick Fairley, Ziggy Ansah, George Johnson, Jason Jones; and C.J. Mosley have all proven capable of reaching the quarterback this season. With such a diverse and deep group of defenders, Geno will need to make quick and effective decisions on Sunday to be successful.
Bro's Bottom Line
Keeping Calvin Johnson locked down and Matt Stafford constantly under pressure should keep this game close, but that's easier said than done. If the Jets can knock Stafford (or Johnson) off their game, expect a low scoring affair. Both offenses are inconsistent, and both defenses are performing very well relative to the rest of the NFL. Although this game will certainly prove a challenge for the Jets, winning is by no means impossible or even improbable when you consider the odds.
It's easy to get overwhelmed and throw your hands up after a rough start to the season, but keep in mind the Jets are one win away from .500. One loss puts Detroit in the same exact place. The Lions are loaded with talent, but the team is by no stretch of the imagination unbeatable or even a lock to be successful in 2014. The Jets cannot allow themselves to be intimidated.
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